MDE Weekly Superintendent Mail

January 22, 2013

Dear Superintendents,

This morning, Governor Dayton released his budget for the next biennium. It is a budget that affirms his commitment to fairness, responsibility, and smart investments that will strengthen our education system, grow jobs and reform state government to make it work better for Minnesotans. I wanted to take a moment to share with you what his proposal means for the work we do.

True to his promise, Governor Dayton has proposed the largest investment in E-12 education the state has seen in over five years. With a biennial investment of nearly $350 million, his proposal would provide significant opportunities to reform the state’s education funding system, make it more flexible for districts, provide more of the resources schools and teachers need, and create better educational opportunities and outcomes for the children in our state.

The Governor’s budget clearly shows the high value he places on education. I’m especially pleased he has adopted many of the changes proposed by the Education Finance Reform Working Group - changes that simplify the education funding formula, make it more transparent for districts and parents and provides for a 1 percent increase to the General Education basic formula in FY2014. The budget also funds the special education funding reform proposals developed by the Working Group, which includes transitioning to a pupil-driven formula that targets funding to students and districts with the greatest need.

The Governor’s budget also funds programs that benefit Minnesota’s youngest learners. His proposal expands the Early Learning Scholarship program by $44 million, which would make more than 10,000 scholarships available so that families in need can send their child to high quality early childhood programs. Governor Dayton’s budget proposes financial incentives that will make all day, every day kindergarten available to 85 percent of Minnesota students.

The ideas reflected in the Governor’s budget will help Minnesota schools be safer, healthier places to learn, and help teachers feel supported, respected and valued for their important work. There is funding for a School Climate Center to be administered by MDE to support schools in their efforts to prevent bullying. The budget contains initial funding to begin implementing a teacher and principal evaluation model. There are proposals to extend funding for English Learner students from five years to seven years, to allocate Integration Aid and Literacy Incentive Aid in a way that better supports our goals of closing achievement gaps and increasing graduation rates, and funding that will be used to further reduce special education paperwork for teachers.

In the coming days, there will be much discussion around the proposals set forth in the Governor’s budget, but today I want to say thank you. Thank you to those who served on a task force or attended a listening session, or who took time to give me a call, send a note of encouragement or constructive feedback.

Over the past year and a half, a variety of task forces and working groups have examined the most challenging issues facing Minnesota’s education system. Dozens of people – teachers, business and faith leaders, administrators and other educators, policymakers, parents, students and more – volunteered their time and best thinking. Hundreds, if not thousands of people provided additional input and ideas. Today’s budget reflects that input, and our shared commitment as Minnesotans to make sure our education system is second to none.

Minnesota’s future depends on our ability to graduate students who are well prepared for success in college, career and beyond. Governor Dayton’s budget reflects that urgent imperative, and lays out a vision where Minnesota students not only compete, but lead the way in the global economy. Each of you plays a key role in helping make that vision a reality. It is an honor to do this work with you.

Brenda Cassellius

Commissioner of Education